Interview with Craig Roxburgh


Leading up to the third edition of Emo Night, we speak to organiser, Craig Roxburgh, about his memories of the emo subculture, the need for nostalgia & his personal attraction to the music the events highlight.

craig roxburgh

We’re dealing with a generation of constant progression in tech and accessibility, yet we’re craving the fashion trends of the 90’s & the vivid influences in recycling sounds in the music industry. Emo night is a desire to capture the nostalgia around that earlier subculture. Why do you think our generation is craving nostalgia in our environments?

It is definitely linked to how rapidly our society has progressed in the past decade. We have grown in technological leaps and bounds since the emo culture initially died out and I think we crave nostalgia due to that. We crave something that is more familiar and simple. Modern technology can often be quite alien and I think on some subconscious level – that scares some people even though they are young. You often see 20-something-year olds reminiscing on what can be described as simpler times especially with those “only 90s kids will remember” memes. We are kind of still instilled with that Y2K fear, but a much more subdued one that is less bent on believing that machines will take over the world, but rather that we want to cling to the faux sense of independence that comes with growing up without smartphones and so forth. Nostalgia lets us relive that and relive parts of our lives that we supposedly more stress-free than our current one. It’s escapism that is easy to digest – you don’t need to get stuck into a book or video game, but rather just visit this environment that is laden in nostalgia, immerse yourself in it and then go back to work on Monday.

On the note of Emo Night specifically, the nostalgia really does sell. The events in the US from which we drew influence from, often see close to a 1000 people in attendance each time they throw an event, which is insane. I think it links to people not being happy with the prevalence of pop music as when they were young – emo music was the pop music, and that plays a huge role. However, I would like to transcend the event from being exclusively about nostalgia to being about something bigger and benefiting the alternative music scene while still having that nostalgic feel to it.

Predominantly based in Joburg, my memories of the emo subculture are side draping fringes, box dyed hair, knee-high striped socks in masses at spaces like Tempos, Olive Lounge and Doors. What are your Cape Town memories?

My Cape Town memories pretty much revolve around trying way too hard to appear emo to the numerous girls I convinced myself I was in love with, and absolutely failing because I was dressed by mother and really just always looked like a preppy nerd until I was finally allowed to get a pair of skinny jeans when I was 15. Being a teenager that associated with the subculture in 2011/2012 really didn’t pan out very well because by then the whole subculture had died out and people were starting to embracing hip-hop culture or the hipster craze. So my memories just revolved around Mxit chatrooms and trying really hard to impress the older emo kids in my school.

The whole ‘emo’ culture was that alluding emotions. What’s your personal connection to this kind of music? How does it relate to you the music you’re currently listening to?

emo-nightI don’t think I ever actually stopped listening to the music, but that could be because I’m only turning 20 in just under a month. The music associated with the subculture still remains a core part of what I listen to on a daily basis. I actually had a phase where I stopped listening to this music completely when I was 17/18 as an effort to seem mature or whatever, so I just listened to a lot of indie music until I became completely sick of the pretentious hipster culture that became built around that genre. On the note of a personal connection, it’s a music culture that has been there since I first became conscious of music and the power it has. A lot of the bands helped me overcome problems I had with insecurity and confidence and so forth, so it has played a huge role in shaping who I am today. I think I’m going to be dropping my kids off at school in my 40s blaring Blink 182 or Saves The Day. Without a doubt.

Two events behind you & it looks like the third event has found its feet, attracting more people to the night. Tell us about the choice of bands for this edition?

I’ve been wanting to include bands since day one and we’ve finally got a venue where the changeover between DJs and bands can be incredibly fluid. Past Haunts are probably the closest thing Cape Town has to an emo band, and they are also one of my favourite bands in the local industry right now. They are possibly number three or four in my local top five. I chose Crooked partially because I had them do a couple of covers before, so I decided to get in touch with them to do covers, specifically of songs by female-fronted bands. I have found that people really enjoy it when Paramore or The Pretty Reckless is played, so why not get a band to do those songs live?

I’m a millennial. I experienced the entirety that was the ‘emo’ subculture & don’t know how I would envision it in today’s current socio-political environment. Who is your target market for these events? Are the twenty year olds of this regeneration listening to bands such as My Chemical Romance, Sum41, From First to Last, etc?

I don’t like to think that we target a specific age demographic as our patrons vary in age, but for the most part they are between 18 and 30, so one-half of them listened to this music in high school and want to recapture that nostalgia and the other half probably still listen to the music now. Essentially, our target market is anyone that listens to this music or has listened to this music. However, a lot of twenty-year-olds are still listening to Sum 41 and My Chemical Romance and so on, which is really amazing because it shows how this music can transfer from one generation to another.

Head downs, huddled in corners and 21st-century vampires. Is this stereotype changing when it comes to emo music?

emo-nightDefinitely. The demise of My Chemical Romance kind of ended that dramatic stereotype, especially since the other artists that propagated the stereotype completely shifted their aesthetic towards something more mainstream such as the case with Panic! At The Disco. Emo music these days is a lot more niche and I have found that newer emo bands are returning to the original roots of emo music with much more abrasive post-hardcore influences, or they taking the current pop punk format and drenching it in a lot of emotion and angst. It is definitely less focused on anti-social behaviour and rather basing itself around emotions once again. The one thing I can say for sure is that emo music is far from dead or retro or whatever – the genre is still alive and kicking.

Is this your baby or does it take a team to get these events off the ground?

I definitely couldn’t do this without my team. From an administrative point of view, the event is my baby as I handle all the nitty-gritty managerial stuff like confirming bookings and running our social media. However, my backing team helps with promoting the event, design work, décor and so forth. If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t have the amazing posters we do have and I am pretty sure my acerbic personality would have caused people to come disinterested.

Mercury Live manage to always pull a crowd. Was this an attractive quality when teaming up with them for this event?

Now that I think about it – yeah it was. It was initially attractive because it boasted a bigger capacity than Manila Bar whose capacity we nearly exceeded, and it has one of the best live sound systems in Cape Town as it is run by the Cape Audio College. Plus, the grungy aesthetic kind of works for us.

There’ll be DJs playing sets on the evening. Give us an example of a playlist people can expect.

The playlists vary from DJ to DJ, but from my side, my playlist will feature the likes of Brand New, Taking Back Sunday, Hawthorne Heights, Blink 182, Jimmy Eat World, Bring Me The Horizon, Underoath, Panic! At The Disco and bunch of other artists. It fuses together the mainstream side of the emo subculture and some of the niche and heavier artists associated with the subculture.

Emo Night Presents: Writing Sins Not Tragedies
20:00 to 02:00
Cape Town,
Western Cape,
South Africa
From 19-11-16 to 20-11-16
That’s right. The purveyors of high school nostalgia and repressed teen angst are back with their dark clothes and violent poses to bring you our final event of the year before we retreat into our holes as the sun will naturally burn our pasty skin. Join us in an event that promises to be sinful in nature, because let’s face it – the amount of fun we have has to be some kind of fun. We will be blowing away all tragedies as we roll into Mercury Live with our friends Crooked and Past Haunts. They shall be playing a variety of covers and some original material while we spin only the finest and most nostalgic emo tunes.

For our long-time patrons, you know what to expect, but to newcomers to this night of nostalgia here is what you can expect:

The writing of sins, not tragedies
Chemical romances
Blinking 182 times
People adding up to 41
Talented men that may or may not be called Billy
Your mom calling you a Satanist while you dress yourself head-to-toe in back
All your non-emo friends think you are weird
Black eyeliner and vision-obscuring fringes
Brand new DJs (but more or less the same)
Not falling out with your friends
Things going down
The piercing of your emo veil
Last resort beers
More black clothing than a funeral for a friend
A day that isn’t really green
Modern takes on baseball
A severe lack of American Football
Pirates of the Caribbean references as we try to bring you the horizon
Good girls called Charlotte
Good girls all the bad guys want
Rock shows
Songs about Adam
A night to remember
A lot of panicking at the disco
A lack of world eating by Jimmy
Confessions on the dashboard
Pop punk covers
Jude Law but no semesters abroad.

8pm – 9pm: Emo Night DJs
9pm – 10pm: Crooked
10pm – 11pm: Emo Night DJs
11pm-12am: Past Haunts
12am-2am: Emo Night DJs

Right of admission is reserved.

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